Sunday Main 09-23-12



Freed to Love X.mp3

 Stir it up! – PDF

 Key Texts: Deut. 30:6; II Thess. 3:5; Matt. 18:15-20


  • Matt. 5:23,24
    • We also spent some time qualifying why Matthew 5:23,24 was an appropriate New Covenant verse applying to all Christians – See Beatitudes Example.
  • I Cor. 5:6-8
  • Gal. 5:7-13
  • II Thess. 3:13-16
  • Matt. 16:17-19


This week continued looking at the second and third expressions of love in our list of ways in which we are “Freed to Love” – namely…

  1. Stop wallowing in self-oriented story and accept the story He had written for you beginning with His agape’ love for you.
  2. Living for our brothers and sisters
  3. Forgiving

Our study this week continued where we left off last week at Matthew 18:15.

We began with a brief review of our initial conviction that even though the scriptures use the words “if your brother sins against you“, as in Matthew 18:15, we still believe that the thought is better represented by the words “if your brother sins towards you“. This is NOT because “against” is wrong in and of itself, but that it is more likely to create a “self-oriented” need for justification rather than one that is God centered.

We spent some time on this last week and so I will not cover it again other than to remind you of the connection between sin and the Law.

“Every one who is guilty of sin is also guilty of violating Law; for sin is the violation of Law ~ 1 Jn. 3:4

I John reminds us that the righteous requirement of righteous living are still pertinent today. This is true because the law is a depiction of the character of God. In fact, that is what makes it “right” (it is also what makes it “THE MARK” we aim at)!

The word “Law” means “THE MARK” and sin means to “MISS THE MARK”. It really is amazingly straight forward!

So we determined that if we “MISS THE MARK” we are in fact falling short of God’s character and likeness. Therefore all sin is AGAINST GOD and therefore cannot be AGAINST man in the same meaning of the phrase. Man’s nature is NOT the “MARK” we are aiming at nor is it the one we miss when we sin.

We referenced two passages within the fouth chapter of James which indirectly visit this topic – both of which approach the idea from differing perspectives, but NOT ultimately differing conclusions.

The two verses are James 4:1-10 & James 4:11,12:

(I will underline and make RED those parts which point out that sins we do against our brother are seen as a direct affront against God personally.)

James 4:1-10
(1)  What causes wars and contentions among you? Is it not the cravings which are ever at war within you for various pleasures?
(2)  You covet things and yet cannot get them; you commit murder; you have passionate desires and yet cannot gain your end; you begin to fight and make war. You have not, because you do not pray;
(3)  or you pray and yet do not receive, because you pray wrongly, your object being to waste what you get on some pleasure or another.
(4)  You unfaithful women, do you not know that friendship with the world means enmity to God? Therefore whoever is bent on being friendly with the world makes himself an enemy to God.
(5)  Or do you suppose that it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “The Spirit which He has caused to dwell in our hearts yearns jealously over us“?
(6)  But He gives more abundant grace, as is implied in His saying, “GOD SETS HIMSELF AGAINST THE HAUGHTY, BUT TO THE LOWLY HE GIVES GRACE.”
(7)  Submit therefore to God: resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
(8)  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you who arehalf-hearted towards God.
(9)  Afflict yourselves and mourn and weep aloud; let your laughter be turned into grief, and your gladness into shame.
(10)  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

The above verses demonstrate that while the greatest portion of the sins listed were towards a brother – i.e. “contentions, murder coveting, fighting and making war” the SINS were counted as against God – not their fellow Christians.

Now as in any typical parent/child conflict the first thing a corrected child will do is seek to share the blame with others or pass the entirety of the blame onto a sibling. So naturally, in the next verses the Holy Spirit leads James to address what He knows will be their first response to being corrected. He is going to tell them to not turn and defame or slander their siblings.

In verses 11 & 12 it brings in how we treat and talk about our brother (another type of sin). Underlined and in BLUE are those words which draw a direct line between the law and our brother in Christ. Yet even in these verses is a hint that the sin is still against God and not our brother in Christ. To demonstrate this I will underline and make Red the text which illustrates this point. I think you will find that this makes it clear that the One Who is being sinned against is God – the Origin (or source) of the Law.

James 4:11-12
(11)  Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. The man who speaks evil of a brother-man or judges his brother-man speaks evil of the Law and judges the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are no longer one who obeys the Law, but one who judges it.
(12)  The only real Lawgiver and Judge is He who is able to save or to destroy. Who are you to sit in judgement on your fellow man?

So in the end analysis, whether it can be said that any sin is actually committed “against” a brother or not, we know for certain that ALL SIN is DIRECTLY an affront to God and His character.

Here are the verses we covered this week (please note that the term “brother” is a generic term for “Christian sibling”):

Mat 18:15-20
(15)  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
(16)  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
(17)  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
(18)  Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
(19)  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(20)  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In verse 15 the initial conditions are laid before us as well as our required response in Christ.

(15)  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

  • First off the “offense” must be a sin. This is NOT talking about something you subjectively dislike or are just being picky about. Too many Christians are simply TOO TOUCHY! Instead of believing the best of our brother and loving them by overlooking annoyances – we typically capitalize of the annoyances and forgo loving them. So this is a VERY IMPORTANT QUALIFIER! The offense MUST BE A SIN!
  • Don’t GOSSIP or SLANDER! Throughout this entire process it is quite evident that God is concerned about maintaining the dignity and honor of the offender. This runs contrary to our flesh because we believe that the offended ought to be shown the greatest share of courtesy because they were the one who was wounded. God on the other hand is always reaching out to the “lost lamb”, and this process of reconciliation is all about rescuing the offender NOT the offended. In keeping with this goal God is concerned about marring the known character of His children in the eyes of others. As a loving Father, He desires to keep our sins as private as possible if He can. So this passage is an appeal to us as the offended party to approach an offending brother with the same deferential love and consideration as you would want by doing everything you can to spare their testimony and uphold their dignity and godly character in the eyes of others. This represents the heart of your Heavenly Father well!
  • Go to THEM! This means two things:
  1. Don’t go to ANYONE else under ANY circumstances unless you have no choice. An example of those who have no choice would be like a child who was physically abused by someone – they should NOT go to the offender for the sake of safety, but should appeal to their parents.
  2. This also means that you DO NOT wait for them to come to you – you take the initiative!
  • Do it alone! [See Don’t Gossip or Slander above] God is concerned about publicly humiliating people. His desire is to let them maintain some form of dignity and sound reputation rather than slandering them by making public what was done in secret.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” ~ Prov. 25:2

“Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,” ~ Prov. 25:9

“Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.” ~ Prov. 17:9

  •  If they hear you This has the obvious meaning of contrition. If the offender “repents” or changes their mind, you have restored them to fellowship with God and you.

“If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” ~ 1Jn. 1:6-7

  • Notice the point of this whole exercise- you have gained your brother. THAT IS THE PRIZE! This confrontation CANNOT BE about being right! Your purpose in confronting you brother must be free from:
    • Making you brother squirm.
    • Making them understand your hurts.
    • Extracting an apology for apologies sake.

  This MUST BE about reconciliation – 1st with God…2nd with you!

In verse 16 we are given our next step…

(16)  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

  • If they fail to respond with contrition then return with one or two fellow Christians to lay out the offense before your brother again – this time with witnesses.
  • Noting the above concern of God for the privacy of the offender, it would be in keeping with this discretion to bring with you those who are already aware of this offense (if such people exist or at least those who know it is “like” this person to do something like this or at very least suspect it). However, whoever you bring with you should be a mature and impartial Christian witness. This is because the entire offense is on trial at this point and needs spiritual and impartial brothers to arbitrate. 
  • It is important (though admittedly not mentioned) that the “One or Two mature Christians” who you solicit to come with you have discernment and can act impartially. This is because they need to discern if the offense is genuine. They might, upon hearing both sides discover that you are wrong in your offense and therefore are the one in need of correction. If you simply bring with you those who are immature enough to “side” with you –  you might as well not even bother following this scripture, for you are not in pursuit of truth and reconciliation but only of be justified as the one who is right.
  • Once the case is made in as dispassionate a manner as possible and the decision is made as to whether the offense is justified – then the matter is officially established as an offense which MUST be dealt with judicially and according to scripture.
  • Again, as before though not hear stated, if your brother “hears” you, you have gained your brother. The matter is closed and is NOT to be repeated or mentioned again.

In verse 17 we are given our next step…

(17)  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

  •  The idea here is that the offender is being deliberate and obstinate. At this point it matters little if they were wrong or right about the initial offense, because if their heart is more concerned with being right than with fellowship being restored – the “sin” remains. Below is an example where the shoe is on the other foot, but it serves as a great example about the sin of the heart’s attitude for both the offended and the offender.

“Does any of you who has a complaint against someone dare go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels–not to speak of things pertaining to this life? So if you have cases pertaining to this life, do you select those who have no standing in the church to judge? I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who will be able to arbitrate between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Therefore, it is already a total defeat for you that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you act unjustly and cheat–and this to brothers! ~ 1Cor. 6:1-8

  •  Tell it to the church is an interesting phrase. It does not say confront your brother again – this time before the church. This is NOT to say that the offended party should not be present, but the ones being addressed this time is the church not the offender. It says, to tell the church the established fact of the un-repented offense. The picture this verse creates seems to imply that the “one or two” who helped establish this as an “establish offense” are with you giving testimony to the offense and the impenitent heart of the offender. All of this must be done IN THE PRESENCE of the OFFENDER.
  • At this point the church itself is to be seen as confronting the offender as a whole. This is evidenced by the words, “If he refuse to listen even tot he church”. This needs to be done in a deep and genuine spirit of humility and love. The offender needs to be aware that they are still among brethren who love and cherish them. That even though they are on trial here and that at stake is the very future fellowship and involvement within their Christian community – never the less they must know that they are valued and that everyone present desires their repentance, so that they may put this behind them and enjoin themselves upon the offender as beloved siblings.
  • If the offender refuses to hear the church, then let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”. This means that they are to be refused full standing and participation in the local body. As commentator Daivd Guzik says, “There is a sense in which the unrepentant one is chastened by their being placed outside of the “protection” of fellowship.”The words “like a heathen and a tax collector” has two meanings…

    1st – The unrepentant brother must be denied the warmth of fellowship and sense of oneness formerly enjoyed. This of course will only work within a church that functions as a church. So many churches today function much more like the local “Yatch Club” than a living body of brothers and sisters. Such a group has little to deprive the offender of!

    2nd – It means that all future interactions with this brother should focused on their reconciliation – NOT just with the initial offended party, but now with the whole church and also with God. In action, this would eliminate small talk, simple and meaningless pleasantries or any other form of communication which is not targeted at the fallen brother’s restoration to God and the church. This is a VERY serious matter and should NOT be blithely swept aside. Without such encounters a brother may become comfortable with their “new” life outside of the church and forget what they have lost. Those who would avoid this brother due to the difficulties of confrontation are acting in a villainous manner and adding to the actual injury of this brother.

  • Everyone in the church must participate and be unified in this decision – if not then those who refuse most themselves be judged – I Cor. 6:4,5 & II Thess. 3:14. This is only effective is the entire communal church body participates in this very difficult process. This is not to be seen as an excommunication from the body of Christ, but as a censure of the offending party from further involvement with and fellowship among the local body of Christians until which time that repentance is procured.
  • If the offender refuses to come back to the church and stand before them for this process, then the next step is already completed by default. The offended has chosen to censure himself from the communal body of believers in order to maintain his own “case”. In such a case, the brother will eventually realize the injury his actions have created by the response of the church body when they come into contact with him in public.

In verse 18 we are given our next step…

(18)  Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

  • This phrase is widely misunderstood and often taught incorrectly. It is a Jewish idiom and simply means, to declare lawful or unlawful. To forbid or to allow. To my knowledge, the Wuest translation does the best job  at accurately representing the word meanings and the grammar of the Greek.

“Assuredly, I am saying to you, Whatever you forbid on earth, shall have already been forbidden in heaven. And whatever you permit on earth, shall have already been permitted in heaven.”  ~ Matthew 18:18 Wuest Translation  (See also Matt. 16:19 which carries the same meaning only it is specifically referring there to doctrine)

  • The fact that heaven must have already decreed the same judgement as the church is clear not only by the grammar of this verse, but by the fact that they are simply fulfilling what this passage has instructed them to do – thus making it the decision and decree of Heaven. Furthermore, the next two verses also drive home this point.

Verses 19& 20 further define and give weight to all that has gone before…

(19)  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
(20)  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

  • The words “again I say unto you” make it clear that though He is using different words – He is here repeating what He just said above.
  • The decision of  the local body as mentioned in verse 17, is here called a request…“anything they ask”. This makes it clear that the church is not acting autonomously apart from Christ’s Lordship but is in fact only representing His voice and command here on earth. Remember that elsewhere Jesus said something very similar but only to those who have and habitually keep His commandments,

“As for you, friends of mine you are, if you habitually do that which I am enjoining upon you. … You did not make me the object of your choice for yourselves, but I selected you out for myself, and I appointed you in order that you might be going away and constantly bearing fruit, and that your fruit might be remaining, in order that whatever you might ask the Father in my Name, He may give it you.” ~ John 15 Wuest Translation

  • “For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I among them”, this phrase is the most telling – it essentially means that if in our gathering together to either restore our penitent brother to fellowship or to decide against him for his impenitence of heart we do so “IN HIS NAME” – then He is also presiding over this decision with us. One denomination illustrates this at all times by placing an unoccupied chair in a place of prominence demonstrating His position as Chief Shepherd over all.
  • Furthermore the words “In My Name” simply mean “representing Me”. This is the same idea we hold today of “putting our name on or behind” something. When an athlete represents a whole wheat cereal they are in effect saying, “I use this product. It has helped me become who I am. I stand behind it as a healthy choice for you and your family and am so convinced of its benefits that I am placing my reputation on it.” When we allow our name to represent a thought, ideal or even a product – we are attesting to our agreement with it, and so is the tone of this statement from Christ Himself.



Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!